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Zeta Labs Mosin Nagant M44 Carbine - Official Arnies Review

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Mosin Nagant M44Carbine Review

 

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Many thanks to Airsoftpanda.com for providing a review sample of this gun for this official Arnies review.

 

Please note that excellent highly detailed independent reviews of this rifle can be seen by visiting the Member's M44 Carbine review thread.

 

 

 

 

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The WW2 Airsoft scene is a rapidly expanding one at present.In the UK alone numerous WW2 events of note (including the excellent eventsoffered by Gunman Airsoft) are becoming common-place. Sadly though scenariosgenerally have faced limitation in the past due to the limited range ofweaponry available, with traditionally most replicas that originated in the 90s- mid naughties being designed by Japan and so fixating around German andAmerican tools of war.

 

In recent years, though (no doubt promoted by countless WW2video games), there has been an upsurgein alternate replicas, with the PPSH being a fine example of the airsoftindustry's expanding focus on WW2 replicas. Of course that still had left theiconic Soviet mainstay, the Mosin Nagant M91/30 sadly only possible through thehellish insertion of VSR internals into a real steel Nagant body - a tragicwaste in my opinion of both replica and real steel...

 

...Until recently, when Zeta Labs released their M91/30 andM44 Carbines onto the market. There are other excellent reviews already writtenwhich give the full history of the M91/30 and M44 carbine, but suffice to saythat the focus of this review, the M44 Carbine, was (As its name indicated) acarbine based upon the M38 carbine and which represented one of the first timethe Soviet Army attempted to issue carbines army-wide, rather than limitingtheir issue to troops in support roles. Sadly this plan never came intofruition and the M44 Carbine remained a relatively rare sight on thebattlefield, but those that did use it spoke highly of its practicality due tothe reduced length and weight.

 

In this review I aim to examine first of all theconstruction and build quality of the replica, it's output and its accuracy.I'll also happily respond to any questions about the rifle - please drop me amessage to ask for more information.

 

Appearance &Build Quality

 

Internals

 

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The rifle arrived at my request, in its component parts, toenable me to immediately get a feel for the rifle's build quality.

 

I was very impressed with the high steel content of the gun,with only a few internals, such as the feed system, in black plastic. Thisdesign of the feed system was alien to me to say the least - more on thislater.

 

Externals

 

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What first struck me was the darkness of the receiver - thefinish is almost a dark matt Walnut, clearly designed to the emulate thehardwood receivers of the Izhmash postwar replicas (Note: a newer version of the M44 Carbine has now been released and is in stock at AirsoftPanda at time of writing, which features a much lighter finish, similar in colour but not finish to the early laminate stocks). This minor disappointmentto WW2 airsofters seeking to use this rifle, is echoed throughout the rifle's appearance, with the well-renderedtrademarks engraved into the upper chamber of the rifle and the presence of thebayonet mount's protective 'ear' (to lock the bayonet in place) all indicatingthat Zeta Labs based their design on a 1947 Izhmash-produced M44.

 

Ignoring the postwar design, the externals of the rifle wereexceptionally sturdy, with the stock, bolt, chamber and barrel all feelingextremlely robust.

 

Three minor negative points came in the form of the resinbayonet (an understandable compromise by Zeta Labs in order to satisfyinternational law) some minor cosmetic damage to the upper stock's finish,presumably from the shipping process, a slightly loose bayonet mount, whichcaused the bayonet to flap. Whilst the bayonet's looseness was easily rectifiedthrough tightening the pivot mount's screw, the resin bayonet and the cosmeticdamage of the stock may possibly indicate aspects of the rifle which may notwithhold as much punishment as the metal components of the rifle.

 

Assembly & Loading

 

Building the gun, I confess was...bewildering. Most notablybecause of the somewhat bizarre feed system of the replica, designed to allowthe loading of the gun without compromising the external appearance throughadditional 'magwells' etc. After eventually comprehending how to assemble therifle, the system became clear: flick open the clip cover, turn the gun upsidedown and CAREFULLY (it's very easy in the field to miss the feed groove andhave a rattly mag well) pour bbs into the feedgroove, allowing them to rolldown the ramp into the feedhole. Whilst doing this, pull back on the fine redcord, which pulls back the loading spring for the actual feed chamber, and the bbswill pour into the magazine. As a fan of Tanaka gas bolt actions, I found thesystem extremely fiddly but, with a little practice, found the rifle will hold10 rounds before reloads.

 

Wait...10 rounds?!? Yes...sadly. This makes the rifle'sdesign a problematic one for those intending to skirmish. With only 10 roundsbefore a fiddly reload which is only achievable under cover, this is not arifle for the average public skirmish - unless you are a masochist!

 

This is, however, balanced by a frankly deeply satisfyingbolt action on the rifle, with the highly solid and fluid bolt system rackingback - albeit with some force. It should be noted that the draw strength onthis rifle is considerable, and I found the best solution to guarantee cockingthe rifle was a violent physical 'jolt' back. This racking process didthankfully dissipate over time, which made the actual testing a lot morepleasurable:

 

Chrono

 

Chronoing was undertaken indoors, using 0.2g XtremePrecision BB. A Big Dragon EG900 Chronometer was used. The rifle was chronoedinitially on 'out of the box' condition and then, after 150 rounds were putthrough the rifle.

 

Initially the rifle put out an astounding 504 fps - somewhatworrying, given that the usual limit for bolt action rifles in the UK at mostsites is 500fps. This high output was matched by an equally strong drawstrength, with the initial cocking of the rifle requiring a violent rackingaction.

 

Thankfully after extended use, the rifle's cocking actionstarted to loosen, suggesting the spring had started to 'bed in' somewhat.After firing 150 rounds, the rifle was finally chronoed with a much more fluid cockingaction:

 

1st Shot: 467

 

2nd Shot: 442

 

3rd Shot: 447

 

4th Shot: 464

 

5th Shot: 460

 

Average (mean)= 456

 

Range (variation in output) = 25

 

The average of 456 is still an impressive output, althoughdue, to the aforementioned difficulty in cocking the rifle through a stiffracking action, combined with the limited ammunition capacity, it's likely thatany potential skirmisher would wish to look into either replacing the spring orfurther compressing the stock spring. More worrying is the range in FPS across25 - a sizable range in consistency for a rifle where ammo and rate of fire areboth low. But will this affect the accuracy? There's only one way to be sure...

 

Accuracy

 

Accuracy tests took place outdoors on a temperate day withno detectable breeze. A paper target (many thanks to Mytargets.com for theirselection of free targets) was placed at 30m and all shots were taken using therifle's iron sights at kneeling to reflect a 'real world' variance in accuracythat would be minimised by going prone. Five rounds of Blaster Devil 0.28g werefired at the target and the resulting 'hits' measured in their distance fromthe bullseye.

 

The result can be seen below:

 

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1st Shot: 11.5cm NW

 

2nd Shot: 4cm NW

 

3rd Shot: 7cm NW

 

4th Shot: 3.5cm SW

 

5th Shot: 3.5cm NW

 

The first shot, 11.5cm up and left from the target wasunacceptably wide for 30m, and would most likely result in a miss at a moredistant target. However the closer grouping of the remaining shots suggeststhat this is more the fault of an inept marksman than the rifle itself! Theremaining shots fell much closer to the bulls-eye, with the closest being 3.5cmoff target - a much better performance. It was interesting to note that allshots pulled slightly to the right. Again, this could be attributed to theineptness of the marksman, or could indicate a very slight issue with thesights / barrel mis-alignment. It goes without saying that with a more skilledmarksman in the appropriate posture could no doubt improve the performance ofthe rifle with little effort. Whether the performance above is sufficient for arifle with a 10 round limit is highly debatable however - personally I shallavoid using this rifle in the field and I would highly advise any seeking to doso consider upgrading the barrel. Whilst it may also be tempting to look intomosin scope mounts and fit a scope, this would ruin the visuals of the weaponand would beg the question 'Why buy this rifle, with its inhibiting loadingsystem, if you are not bothered about appearance?'

 

2 Months On - 28/08/11

 

It has now been 2 months since the M44 Carbine arrived. In that time I've not skirmished with the rifle partly as a reflection on the practicality of the rifle and most significantly because I didn't want to risk ruining the appearance of a beautiful rifle. Over these 8 weeks, the advantages and disadvantages of the M44 Carbine have been emphasised:

 

+ A distinctive rifle - even with its growing popularity, it attracts a lot of attention.

+ Attractive and relatively solid build quality (just avoid hitting the resin bayonet mount on anything!).

+ As with many spring-powered rifles, the bolt, while firing forward with a satisfying 'clack', is relatively quiet, making it ideal for covert shots.

 

- The bolt action has loosened but the high-powered spring means that the bolt still requires more force to rack back than many who have tried it find comfortable. This forces the user to time shots much more so than even with other bolt action rifles, and regularly could be the source of frustration when under fire.

- The accuracy (at stock) is less than ideal for a weapon which is lucky to get 10 shots out - as a skirmish weapon the rifle desperately would need upgrades.

 

Conclusion

 

To manhandle and use, the M44 Carbine is a delight. Thewood's texture is as satisfying to the touch as the bolt action (once itloosens up, that is). Sadly this is undermined by the feed system, which, whilean understandable compromise that maintains the rifle's external aesthetics,really has far too low a capacity for the 'magazine-free' approach to beeffective in skirmishes. Whilst die-hards and masochists will no doubt contendthis issue, it will take a great amount of skill and consideration to use theM44 effectively in the field, along with, I suspect, a tighter inner barrel tomake the most of the 10 shots you'll get...

 

...Meanwhile, for target shooting, general plinking and as acollector's piece the M44 is a beautiful replica, although the resin bayonetmay be a disappointment to those that purchase this replica on the basis of itsvisual appeal. Again here I suspect collectors may look to source real steelparts to supplement those where compromises were made.

 

So is the M44 Carbine by Zeta Labs worth it? Yes and no.Everyone should love the finish, the attention to detail and the satisfying clunk as you rack back that solid boltand load the next round. What everyone will notlike is the highly limiting 10 round capacity, followed by a fiddly andimpractical reloading method. This is a rifle which sells itself on its buildquality and appearance, rather than its ease of use, and will no doubt bepurchased by airsofters who love the appearance and feel of the rifle than whowant to have the most effective or accurate rifle on the field. Of course, if that is true, then no doubt by now those that are interested in the M44 will have already made up their mind.For the rest of us, the M44 may possibly represent a compromise too far.

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